Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen – an open cloze listening comprehension exercise

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Here’s another exercise based on Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah – this one is also a listening comprehension task, but a bit more difficult than the previous version because here you have to find the words on your own as there is no list to choose from (this is called an open cloze test).

You can try an easier version of the same song here – you only have to choose the words from a list in this exercise.

Earlier we featured two other Leonard Cohen songs, Suzanne and Famous Blue Raincoat – make sure you check out those exercises too.

More tasks will follow based on this song.

Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen: a listening comprehension exercise

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Leonard Cohen, one of the greatest musicians of all time, passed away on November 7 this year. We celebrate his musical legacy with a concert recording of his masterpiece, Hallelujah.

This classic is considered to be the most covered song ever, having inspired well over 200 covers so far. The song has many different versions and almost every performer changes the lyrics to a certain extent, adding or removing verses. Leonard Cohen himself played it quite differently over the years, including the variation in the final verse to suit the concert venue – in the case of this video, London; this was a highly anticipated and appreciated feature of the night everywhere. You can hear the crowd cheering loudly in the background for this line.

This exercise is not meant to be very difficult; it’s aimed at intermediate to upper-intermediate level students (between B1 and B2 levels on the CEFR scale).

Fairly soon you’ll find exercises here based on the vocabulary of this song, together with more listening comprehension tasks.

Earlier we featured two other Leonard Cohen songs, Suzanne and Famous Blue Raincoat – make sure you check out those exercises too.

Handle with Care – The Traveling Wilburys: a listening comprehension exercise

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Bob Dylan received the Nobel Prize in literature earlier today and we’re celebrating it with a listening task, what else?

Most Bob Dylan fans will know that he was a member of the supergroup the Traveling Wilburys, together with George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne. The song featured here, Handle with Care, was one of the hits of this short-lived band.

Sting: Fields of Gold – a listening comprehension exercise

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Another gem from Sting: Fields of Gold. Not a very difficult listening comprehension task this time, probably between levels B2 and C1. Some of the vocabulary can be a bit tricky but Sting’s singing voice is nicely clear and easy to understand.

Check back in a few weeks for more exercises based on this song, especially vocabulary.

The Beatles: Eleanor Rigby – a listening comprehension exercise

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Once again, a song which is half a century old and still sounds as fresh and relevant as only few today. Eleanor Rigby was released in 1966 on the album Revolver, and it has been popular ever since. It has also influenced the English language as the line all the lonely people has become a set phrase. And how many songs can you think of that served as inspiration for a statue? See the cover image; here is the plaque in a more readable resolution:

Plaque on the statue of Eleanor Rigby

The difficulty of this task is about upper-intermediate level, or B2 on the CEFR scale.

Some words (mainly names) have been added to help you a little.

More exercises based on this song will follow.

Leonard Cohen: Famous Blue Raincoat – a listening comprehension exercise

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I almost wrote “this is one of the most famous Leonard Cohen songs”, but you can say the same about a dozen of them, so let’s just say “another great song”. Your task is to listen to the original studio version and write down the words you hear.

Once again, this is not a very easy exercise (later you’ll get easier ones based on this same song); the difficulty is probably somewhere between levels B2 and C1 (advanced). Although the tempo of the song is slow and Cohen’s singing voice is fairly easy to understand, his imagery and poetic language can prove to be tricky.

Some words (mainly names) have been added to give you an easier start.

Fairly soon you will find more tasks here based on this song, including vocabulary exercises too.

Sting: Russians – a listening comprehension exercise

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Listen to the song Russians by Sting and write down the words you hear.

Although Sting’s voice can be clearly heard all through the song, it’s still not an easy task because the vocabulary is pretty advanced in places. Also, the lyrics contain some abstract ideas and poetic language, which again make this listening comprehension task more difficult. Overall, it’s somewhere between B2 and C1 level, probably closer to the latter – an advanced level exercise.

Some names have been added to help you a bit.

There will be follow-up exercises to help you learn the vocabulary of this song.

Simon & Garfunkel: The Boxer – a listening comprehension exercise

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Once again, a classic: the famous duo of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel first performed this song in 1969 and it has been popular ever since. The lyrics are not simple: you’ll find some advanced vocabulary items, some of which you might be unfamiliar with.

In this exercise version, only some easier words are left out, and if you still have difficulties, you can ask for hints.

Later you will find more tasks here based on this song, including vocabulary exercises and a pretty difficult text reconstruction task.

Suzanne by Leonard Cohen – a gap-fill listening comprehension exercise

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Again, a famous song (and also an old one!), but a different task type this time: you only have to enter the missing words, not the whole text of the song. This is not a difficult exercise since Leonard Cohen sings in an easily understandable manner and the song is fairly slow too – it’s around intermediate level, or B1 on the CEFR scale.

As usual, you can ask for hints by clicking on the Give me a letter button – please note that the free letter will be added in the gap where you have your cursor and that you’ll lose points with this option.

There will be other tasks based on this song later, including vocabulary exercises and the usual text reconstruction task type too. We’re also planning a reading text on the background of the song.

Tom’s Diner by Suzanne Vega – a listening comprehension exercise

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The original version of this unique song is a cappella (with no music), which is quite rare in pop music. It was also published in several different versions and a number of other artists came out with their own covers too. Initially we had a concert version of the song for this task but then we decided to feature the original video instead as it’s easier to understand.

Your task is to listen to the song and write down the lyrics. It’s not very difficult: slightly below B2 level on the CEFR scale, which is between intermediate and upper-intermediate.

There will be other tasks based on this song coming later, so stay tuned.